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Tales From the Vault-Verse: The Last Book You’ll Ever Read

It seems as if my multidimensional friend neglected to mention that Olivia Kade’s book SATYR may be the root of mass violent hysteria on this Earth. They neglected to fill me in on that little fact until I was already on this Earth because and I quote, “I thought it would be funny to see your reaction. It was worth it.” So now I am sitting in the waiting room to speak with her during her book tour. Journalism is fun, right? It’ll just be nice for once to not have to explain the whole multidimensional traveler thing. Silver linings.

Interview with Olivia Kade

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Dan: Ms. Kade, it is a pleasure to meet you. I like to start all of my interviews with a real heavy hitter…what’s your favorite sandwich?

Olivia: Did you know that it wasn’t that long ago that I was working at a sandwich shop? It’s true. I worked my way through much of college working at a deli, slinging turkey and swiss sandwiches. 

Funny how things change. 

And how rapidly. 

Anyway, in regards to your question, my favorite sandwich was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that my father made for me when I was five. I remember sitting at the table, watching him work so meticulously to make that sandwich for me. His method of sandwich construction was so different from my mother’s. Mom would mix the peanut butter and jelly in a bowl before slathering it on the bread. Dad put jelly on one slice of the bread so evenly, so smoothly, and peanut butter on the other. He cut it into perfect halves. He cleanly sliced the crust off. 

It was the best sandwich I ever ate, because even at that young age, I appreciated that it was such a fleeting treat.

I knew it wouldn’t last. 

Dan: So SATYR…when did you start writing it?

Olivia: When I finished that sandwich maybe? (laughs)

This book wasn’t my dream. 

No, my dream was to write erotic horror fiction. I have several manuscripts somewhere in my office. They’re full of violence and bloodshed and sex. Most of them are unpublished. A couple of them saw print, but they were quickly forgotten.

I think I was working too hard to follow the “rules” of writing, and it stripped all the vitality from those pages.

Interestingly the unpublished manuscripts, the ones my agent quickly rejected, were much more satisfying. 

I started writing SATYR a couple of years ago. I went on a bit of a sabbatical, a retreat, to try and focus and prepare for my next novel. I secreted myself away at this great little bed and breakfast type place, out in the woods, away from everyone.

The book I planned on starting, though, didn’t come out the way I expected at all. It became, almost from the first word, the book you know as SATYR

It was the dreams, I think, that set me on that path.

The dreams…and the bellowing from the woods. 

Dan: The cover is a lot more tame than one would expect about a book exploring the morality of the human condition. What made you go that route?

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Olivia: “Tame.” That’s an interesting choice of words, isn’t it? We’re all so tame. It’s true, though, I suppose. My publisher put together a number of different cover concepts, many of them far more sensational, even a bit shocking in some cases, but I thought it much more appropriate to start from a position of safety and comfort. The simple icon of a satyr, playing his pipe for all of us to dance to, seems appropriate. 


Dan: I heard you were recently attacked at a signing! I hate to bring it up but it’s my job…what was going through your mind as you were attacked?

Olivia: It’s to be expected, I suppose.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Dan: It seems as if a lot of attacks are happening and the media is trying to pin those crimes onto your book. How does that feel?

Olivia: You can’t really ask for better publicity, can you?

Certainly, there are times where I am frustrated with how my work is being represented… with how I am being represented as a writer… but I can’t control the message from the media any more than I can really control the message you’ll find in the pages of SATYR.

Now, you might say, “But you’re the author. Don’t you have complete control of the message?”

And that is a naive assumption, just as it is naive—even willfully ignorant—to say that my book is causing this collapse.

The collapse would be here with or without SATYR

I’m just trying to make the transition—the Wilding—a little less painful. 

Dan: Do you feel that your book shares anything similar with other famously controversial novels like Lolita, The Catcher in the Rye, and American Psycho to name a few?

Olivia: Hmm.

I don’t think a comparison to those books is quite right. 

If we’re going to make a comparison to a controversial book responsible for mass violence, maybe THE BIBLE?

Or maybe HOW TO STAY ALIVE IN THE WOODS.

Dan: In the book, you make a claim that people are becoming more feral…do you mean this in a way that we are more animalistic or less conservative with some of our etiquette?

Olivia: The concepts of conservatism and liberalism, moderation and orthodoxy, traditionalism and pliability, are flying out the window, and as the glass shatters, the structures housing those windows are collapsing. It’s not that any one person is becoming more feral. It’s that we’re all heading that way. So etiquette is going the way of the dodo, along with social graces and politeness and expectations and even laws. I mean, do we value those things anyway? We like to say we do. But those are old, self-inflicted wounds and we’re starting to pick the scab away in order to see how our flesh is scarred underneath. 

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Dan: Do you think the written word holds the same power today as it once did before the invention of the technology the world relies so heavily on today? And we can keep this one off of the record Ms. Kade but I have to ask for myself, do you think you are going to be okay after all of this? If all of this does link back to you…how will you sleep?

Olivia: Soon enough, the technology of it all won’t matter. You see that, right? We won’t be communicating as we are right now, not using technology, not using the written word, definitely not using them in conjunction with one another. And yet, the written word, translated through technology, doled out in small bites without the safety blankets of intonation, intention, and context, have moved us towards the singularity. Our steadfast determination that our ideas, philosophy, and faith can be conveyed in less than 280 characters…our knee-jerk reactions to those distilled opinions and belief systems… have been gnawing away at the paper-thin skin of civilization for years. 

When the dust settles, I imagine I’ll sleep just fine, along with the rest of the pack, nuzzled up together in a dark, warm den, somewhere deep in the earth. 

I am, after all, right here in the middle of this with everyone else. 

My book isn’t the cause, I mentioned. It’s not even a testimony. It’s more of a survival guide, really. 

The Last Book You’ll Ever Read is on sale now from Vault Comics! Written by Cullen Bunn, art by Leila Leiz, colored by Giada Marchisio and Vlad Popov, and letters by Jim Campbell!

And a thank you to Cullen Bunn for the interview!

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Lunar Room #1: An Exciting Start

The new Werewolf-centric series by Danny Lore, Giorgia Sposito, DJ Chavis and AndWorld is here to deliver a new world of ghouls and ghosts, magic swords, underground fighting, and complicated Queer relationships! The main conflict of issue #1 centres a stolen magical item with some interesting abilities, and an ex-werewolf that’s maybe in a little over their heads as their enemies attempt to corner them.

Credit: Danny Lore/Giorgia Sposito/DJ Chavis/AndWorld Design (Vault Comics)

Lunar Room’s first issue is beautifully drawn and well scripted. Most of the character and environment designs are memorable and fun. Sposito’s stylistic choices feel manga-inspired, while the punchy colors and panel layouts are more reminiscent of ‘Big Two’ visual staples. This blend of genres creates a very compelling and unique visual direction that is sure to appeal to many. 

The main character, Cynthia or “Sin”, as they’re more often called, has a great design and an air of mystery that will compel you to keep reading. They have a “rough around the edges, but maybe a little softer on the inside” kind of vibe. The relationships between the characters are also complex and varied. An ex-partner pops up at an inopportune time, and I’m very interested in seeing this tension play out and perhaps impact Sin’s future relationships. The secondary main character, Zac, is a magic user with personal motivations that have yet to be revealed entirely.

Credit: Danny Lore/Giorgia Sposito/DJ Chavis/AndWorld Design (Vault Comics)

Issue #1 does an excellent job at setting up sources of potential conflict in ways that feel fresh and unpredictable. However, I did find that the number of character introductions was slightly too abundant and derailed the pacing in certain parts. It’s very likely that I will grow to like many of them, but some bled into the background more than others. 

The world building is difficult to judge on a first issue basis. However, the perfect amount is there to lure me in, but not enough to overwhelm the reader or take away the important character moments. The approach to werewolf lore seems to be heading into atypical but very interesting territory. And the way the transformation sequences were drawn was visually very cool and I’m very intrigued to see how it’s utilized in future issues.

Lunar Room pulls off a nearly flawless first issue, and I can’t wait for #2!

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Unearthing The Horrors Of The Autumnal

I am a lifelong horror fanatic. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always consumed copious amounts of horror content – from Universal Monsters and Edgar Allan Poe as a child, to slasher movies and Stephen King in my early teens. Now, it’s everything: movies, books, haunts, and yes – comics. Rarely does anything get under my skin anymore. I can watch horror movies alone, in the dark, in my log home in the middle of the woods – a horror movie scenario just waiting to happen – and still sleep soundly at night.

Credit: Daniel Kraus/Chris Shehan/Jason Wordie/Jim Campbell

So, what is it, exactly, that makes The Autumnal from Vault Comics one of the few comics to really unnerve me? How can a comic bring a desensitized horror fan to a cold sweat in the fall at the sight of a stray leaf in her home?

There are several elements within The Autumnal itself that are just the sort of horror themes that whet my appetite when done correctly. One of those themes involve dark secrets within small towns (as a girl that comes from a small town herself), as well as dark secrets within families. Aspects involving murderous cults in anything always make me happy and tying that into the secrets within the story is perfect.

Credit: Daniel Kraus/Chris Shehan/Jason Wordie/Jim Campbell

Another aspect that I find horrifying that The Autumnal explores is the concept of motherhood. I know that sounds horrible and maybe even confusing initially. But consider this: this small human, this piece of you that grew for months inside of you, this piece of you that you taught to walk and talk and everything else, is out in the world, perpetually in danger. Tragedy could strike at any moment. An accident you couldn’t prevent. Disease or sickness could take them. But then you have something like the situation in the Autumnal, where a supernatural entity has a bone to pick with your family. You have your own issues with your own dead mother, no guidance and in the dark about the horrible elements at play. And all the while, you have to try to protect your daughter. Protecting that child is instinctual, and terrifying, and can leave you feeling powerless against forces beyond your control.

Credit: Daniel Kraus/Chris Shehan/Jason Wordie/Jim Campbell

But many stories explore these sorts of elements, so how does The Autumnal not only stand out, but also disturb readers? It’s simple: it’s execution. The amount of skill from every single member of this team crafts this story into a beast of it’s own. The tension and mystery within the story, slowly built up, keeps the readers feeling like the horror is creeping in on them. The artwork brings the horrors to you visually, and expertly – never giving too much, and always giving these subtle hints and images that leave you sure that something isn’t quite right. Like a stray leaf lingering, normally something you wouldn’t acknowledge. But as you do notice it in this story, it sends a chill through you. Like you’re also being watched, and not just the characters. Top that off with colors that set the tone and bring that autumn feel to life, with lettering, designs, and editing that all tie the story together beautifully and keep you submerged in the horrors, and you have one of my favorite horror comics.

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A Word on Horror From Vault Comics Editor-In-Chief Adrian Wassel

Horror was the first genre I fell in love with. When my brother moved away for college, I was only ten, and suddenly I found myself home alone a lot. My mother had remarried, and at her house, our TV had every conceivable channel, including all the channels kids should not watch. So, I watched them.

I’m not sure anyone in my family, even today, appreciates just how many horror films I used to binge as a kid. I was regularly home alone for entire weekend days and evenings after school. Without supervision, I watched it all. The good, the bad, and the utterly depraved. I was eleven, twelve, thirteen, watching Hellraiser, The Howling, Scream, The Fly, Halloween, and so forth.

Once I got a taste, I wanted more. I wanted horror video games. I wanted horror books. And, eventually, as I got older and had some of my own money to spend, I wanted horror comics.

Rarely has anything scared me in a lasting way. I think that’s part of the fun for me. I enjoy the story. I feel the thrill while it’s happening (if it’s good), and then my brain simply moves on. When I do encounter something that sticks with me, like Kathe Koja’s The Cipher or Milligan and McKeever’s The Extremist, I cherish them like almost no other stories.

Source: “The Extremist” fromVertigo Comics, Written by Peter Milligan, Art by Ted McKeever

Earlier this year, I was talking to Sally Cantirino (co-creator / artist: I Walk With Monsters, Human Remains) about horror, and she explained that for her the best horror creates a place to heal. It provides a narrative, within which you know the fear will end, and you can explore your own limits, even heal through your traumas. I believe that whole-heartedly.

I also believe that the best horror creates a place to hurt.

I believe that some, if not many, will appreciate what I’m about to say next: certain biographical details in my life made me so reticent for so long. I still hardly cry when the worst things happen to me. But I cry over books easily. I struggle to feel afraid of just about anything. I’ve been perhaps too comfortable with my own mortality since I was very little.

But when I’m deep in a good horror story, I feel it. I feel that fear that turns other people away from the dark rooms I’ve always walked into. I feel that tingle down the back of my spine that says, Wait, don’t.

You can find all your Vault Comics needs on their site, here.

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THE RUSH #1 Spoiler-Free Review: Fear In The Yukon

The end of the 19th century was marked by a number of gold rushes, where after a discovery of gold miners would rush an area looking to become rich themselves.

Set against the backdrop of the most famous of these gold rushes, This Hungry Earth Reddens Under Snowclad Hills #1, aka THE RUSH #1, tells the story of a woman searching for her son.

Credit: Si Spurrier/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Vault Comics)

Right from the start, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering acts as a great hook. This issue uses a variety of lettering styles to convey different tones, volumes, and types of speech, and they’re all amazing. Just like the best lettering, it blends into the background while you’re reading it, immersing you in the story and taking you on a ride. I have a special love for the captions, which have a great way of evoking the specific time in which the series is set.

The lettering has managed to capture not only the trappings of this time period, but also the feel, or at least a believable feel for somebody like me who knows relatively little about it. They’ve really succeeded at this, as it is a key part of the Western. Nathan Gooden is another key member of this team contributing to that aspect, as his art, while still feeling modern, has an undeniable historical vibe to it.

Credit: Si Spurrier/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Vault Comics)

Addison Duke’s colours also add a nice touch to this series. He manages to do a great job with the oranges and the reds of the lanterns and campfires present throughout the issue. It makes for a great contrast with the cool blue of the snow. The colours elevate the artwork from being just good, to being great. 

On the other hand, there’s this book’s horror element. The book’s silhouetted monster, The Pale, feels like an afterthought at times, added in simply so that readers don’t forget about it. While it may not make sense to make The Pale a major part of the story from the beginning, and while it is nice to have it show up here to help build anticipation for the rest of the series, I already feel like I’ve lost a bit of the sense of mystery I was expecting to have with it.

Which is a shame, because the character that The Pale tails is already one of my favourite current characters in indie comics. Nettie Bridger just wants one thing more than anything else, and that’s to find her son. Her drive and worry for him is palpable; the letters that she writes for him, not knowing where he is or how to get them to him, are heartfelt. She’s the strongest part of this narrative, and as Si Spurrier tends to excel at writing characters I’m not surprised that she is. Gooden also is a key part of making her so relatable, as his art does a great job with the key bits of acting.

All in all, I really liked THE RUSH #1. I had a great time with it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Nettie’s journey in the Yukon progresses in the coming months. This is another great #1 from Vault, and I think it’s worth at least a browse if you like Westerns, horror, or both.

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The Autumnal Review: Horror that Packs a Pumpkin Spiced Punch

The perfect comic to pair with a pumpkin spice latte and a giant scarf has been bundled up into a paperback book! The Autumnal is a beautiful and horrifying story about Kat and her daughter Sybil who head to Comfort Notch. This fictional small town has a vibe between Stepford and the village in Midsommar, but with Jason Wordie’s gorgeous fiery colors earning Comfort Notch the title of America’s Prettiest Autumn.  Kat is a bit out of place rolling into town with her stuff in a bag, sporting a rocker look and a neck tattoo, but she inherits her recently-deceased mother’s house and sets up her life there with her kid.

I really like reading about Kat, who has a lot of dimension as a character. Some protagonists in horror make such dumb decisions that it can bring you out of a story, wondering how anyone so stupid would have made it to adulthood. Not Kat, however. That isn’t to say she makes good decisions. She makes a lot of really bad ones during this series. From the first pages, we get the sense that her life has been absolutely filled with poor choices, so when she does something boneheaded you want to scream BE BETTER but like, you get it. It’s consistent with her as a person. And because of this, it’s very easy to get invested. Kat is flawed, but you root for her and want her to grow and have good things happen to her and stick it to those judgemental townspeople.

If you told me Daniel Kraus had written comics for the last two decades, I would believe you. The Autumnal is perfect horror, but also does an excellent job of being a comic. The pacing is spot on and there’s a good combination of dialogue and visual storytelling. I was shocked to learn this was Kraus’s first comic! 

This is brought to life by a phenomenal visual art team. There are a lot of details like leaves falling across the pages and easter eggs referencing other Vault works that add whimsy to a comic that goes to some dark places. Shehan shows incredible range in The Autumnal, capturing strong emotions, large crowds, pretty nature, sexy times, horrifying moments, and lighthearted scenes. Wordie’s colors and Jim Campbell’s creative lettering are a perfect fit for this series, following the emotional highs and lows of Kat’s and Sybil’s story. If you’re wondering how all of these fit into a single comic… It’s the perfect time to pick it up and sit under a nice tree with this book.

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Human Remains #1: Spoiler Free Review

Human Remains might be the scariest Vault series to date, and not because it’s the goriest Vault series to date, which it totally is. Seeing some guy get ripped apart by a giant skeleton bug in the first few pages isn’t even the thing that made me anxious. Instead, it was this face he made like “What have I done?” right before the unspeakable horror appeared. 

In Human Remains, the world has been under attack from scary monsters appearing out of a void to rip apart anyone being too emotional. Everyone is trying desperately to keep their emotions bottled up, with varying degrees of success. There are parallels here to living under the threat of COVID, of course. Peter Milligan perfectly captures the anxiety and stress of what happens when A Very Bad Thing has been happening for a really long time. It also captures the small moments that keep us going despite The Very Bad Thing, even though these might be used as tools to break our hearts later on in the series. The introductions to the characters (even the ones who die immediately) are brutally intimate as they confront the other issues in their lives, compounding the horribleness of the time after the life-forms arrived. 

All of that is to say, Human Remains is really really good. You pick it up and won’t be able to look away from this emotional jackhammer of a story. A lot of horror stories will keep their monsters hidden because what you imagine is probably worse than anything they could portray. Not here, though. The monsters are every bit as terrifying as the atmosphere would have you believe. Having full knowledge of this threat leads to everyone walking around the comic book world looking very tense and ready to lose it on the next guy that mansplains something to them in a meeting, but also knowing that losing self-control for a moment would be bad for everyone around.

As a last note, I think this comic would be well served to have a trigger warning at the beginning. There’s a portrayal of domestic violence⁠—it’s only one page in the first issue but I think it’s the beginning of a storyline that’s pretty dark, and even by itself could be pretty upsetting to readers with previous trauma.

* Credit to Bobby @EmperorBojira for this great word